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Columbus therefore estimated the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan to be about 3,000 Italian miles (3,700 km, or 2,300 statute miles). The true figure is now known to be vastly larger: about 20,000 km.  [c] No ship in the 15th century could have carried enough food and fresh water for such a long voyage, and the dangers involved in navigating through the uncharted ocean would have been formidable. Most European navigators reasonably concluded that a westward voyage from Europe to Asia was unfeasible. The Catholic Monarchs , however, having completed an expensive war in the Iberian Peninsula , were eager to obtain a competitive edge over other European countries in the quest for trade with the Indies. Columbus's project, though far-fetched, held the promise of such an advantage.
Revisiting my photographs from those same trips is dislocating in a different way. Always I find my photographs replete with remainders, pedestrian details that contradict and undermine the equally pedestrian account I committed to words. The colors are different. Drops of scarlet blood on a hard tarmac black as obsidian. An overturned brass samovar in a dingy brown train compartment. A bright alarum of pink cherry blossoms against a glass-flat cobalt sea. There is something about those moments, fugitively apprehended as they might have been, that seem to me now odd and decisive. They don’t at all seem like random samples of the ongoing. I never think, What was so special about this? I think instead, Yes, I remember now exactly what was so special about this. They mutely twitch with escaped significance. When we see what we saw, we are reminded of what was apprehended — and let go.